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‘Restaurant industry still seen as a rich man’s indulgence, not a necessity … looking at Rs 65,000-1,00,000 crore loss’


With shopping malls, hotels and restaurants across the country scrambling to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling banning serving of alcohol within 500 metres of state and national highways, Riyaaz Amlani, President of National Restaurant Association of India, spoke to Amin Ali about the financial fallout of the decision, how restaurants are coping with it and how this affects us all:

How do you plan to deal with the fallout of the Supreme Court’s ban on selling liquor within 500 metres of state and national highways?

We have reached out to the state governments and met tourism ministers of Haryana, Maharashtra and Karnataka. We have also sought appointments with chief ministers of these states. We are going to work with the governments to find a way out. Restaurant body was never called to present its point of view in court. The case only talked of liquor shops and vends. When the decision clubbed us with vends and shops the restaurant industry was shocked and shattered. It was a black day for our industry.

What are the losses you are looking at?

We are looking at a Rs 65,000-1,00,000 crore loss of revenue over the year and this decision could impact a million jobs. Thousands of crores worth of investment stands jeopardised. A liquor vend will easily shift 500 metres away but it is not practically possible for a restaurant or a hotel to shift.

The decision was about making highways safer whereas you are only talking about loss of business?

The data on road deaths released by the government’s bureau clearly states that driver negligence and causes such as over-speeding and overloading of trucks kill more people than drunk driving. If the intention is to curb road accidents and make highways safer, then Supreme Court should have forced state governments to install speed guns and check over-speeding strictly. They should have insisted on improving the infrastructure and deployed extra force to check overloaded trucks from plying dangerously. Just closing restaurants will not make roads any safer.

But the 500 metre distance is meant to act as a deterrent to people to drink on highways. Don’t you agree?

Create a social deterrent rather than closing restaurants. It should become a norm that driving drunk or without seat belts is completely unacceptable. A strong social movement and firm implementation of rules will act as a better deterrent than the 500 metres rule. A person who has to drink can drink at home and start driving.

But availability of liquor on highways does offer you an option to drink and drive. Your comments?

Many state highways are roads within a city’s municipal limits. They cater to almost 80% of city traffic movements. Cities changed and evolved and so did our roads. These restaurants were set in permissible areas after paying due taxes and acquiring all the required licences. We are among the safest drinking spaces.

But won’t you agree that the image of the restaurant industry seems to have become one of liquor selling spaces?

The restaurant industry is seen as mere rich man’s indulgence and not a necessity. Some still believe that good people from good families do not go to restaurants. Rather than being seen as a necessity and an important part of a city’s social fabric and spaces that positively contribute to a city’s cultural image, we are merely seen as places serving alcohol. We are among the most heavily taxed, highly licensed and overly regulated industries.

What are you doing to change that image?

We have been bringing out a food service report every year. We contribute 2.1% of the country’s GDP. We employ six million people. We generate revenue that is 1.6 times of Indian railways and two times the size of IT industry. We have been actively presenting these facts to state and central governments. While governments go out of their way to favour other industries, our industry – that actively contributing to country’s image – only requests ease of doing business peacefully. We do not demand any subsidies.

Source: Times of India

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